Deidre Brock: No way to run a country, Theresa
Here we are, then, nine months after the Brexit referendum, eight months since Theresa May became Prime Minister, five months since she promised Scotland a hotline on Brexit negotiations, three months since the Scottish Government published a full position paper on Brexit, still having to guess what might be coming down the line.
We’ve been fobbed off with platitudes and tautologies, condescended to and patronised. We’ve been told that there won’t be a running commentary, that negotiating positions can’t be revealed in advance, that people won’t be bargaining chips but they’ll be used in negotiations. It’s no way to run a country, no way to run a government and no way to run a negotiation.
On Monday Nicola Sturgeon made the only speech that she could have made in all the circumstances. She made it clear that Scotland’s attempts at compromise, attempts to find a solution for all of the UK, had been rejected. The UK’s response is “a brick wall of intransigence” and the hotline phone rings endlessly in an empty room. In response to Mrs May’s determination to reduce the power of the Scottish Parliament, drag us out of the EU and out of the Single Market and to put into question the future of EU citizens who live and work here, Scotland’s First Minister has said ‘no way’.
The independence referendum will be in between 18 months and two years’ time if Holyrood gives Ms Sturgeon the power to act. Scotland voted to remain in the European Union when the UK as a whole voted to leave; the options put forward by Scotland’s government for the future following the referendum have been ignored, and Scotland is being dragged towards a hard Brexit – it seems nothing more nor less than fair that the Scottish people are given a chance to decide a different future if the direction of the UK Government doesn’t change.
Once again we’ll produce some serious and detailed options for the future of Scotland; once again there will be a proper White Paper on the options; once again we’ll encourage a full national debate
In the meantime, we all have a job to do. I’ve got a debate today in Westminster Hall (which I suspect just became a lot more popular) on the implications of Brexit for the Scottish devolution settlement and I’m writing this as I travel down to London for votes on the Brexit Bill. We’ll have the rights and the futures of EU citizens to consider, including those EU citizens who are UK citizens about to lose the right to travel freely throughout the EU and to work or study where they please.
For the Prime Minister, Brexit may mean Brexit and it may be red, white and blue with a return to traditional British values that never really existed - cream tea on warm summer afternoons and cricket on the village green while steam trains puff their way to seaside resorts - but it means something entirely different for most of us. It means people afraid for the future, it means exporters worried about their markets, it means friends and neighbours who might have to leave (and who are already considering it), it means restricting the futures of children living here.
For the sake of taking back a sovereignty that was never lost the UK is ready to sever ties with people across Europe, with the biggest single market in the world and with the biggest funder of academic research in the world.
The EU is very far from being perfect but glorious isolation in the cold winds of seclusion with the dry dust of imperial memories blowing around our ankles suits us far less.
We need answers to what our future might look like, we need hope that we can hand on a future worth having to our children and our grandchildren, and we need a plan to build relationships with Europe.
If Mrs May and her government cannot produce that, then Scotland will; we’ll gather together our talents and our energies and we’ll carve our own future. The next few days in Westminster should show Scotland which of those futures is more likely to be to our benefit.
Deidre Brock is SNP MP for Edinburgh North and Leith